4 years on, Charleston cruise debate lingers

Associated Press
January 2, 2014

CHARLESTON, S.C. — It’s been almost four years since the South Carolina Ports Authority announced plans to build a new $35 million passenger cruise terminal by renovating an old warehouse on the Charleston waterfront.

And it’s going on three years that the issue of building the terminal has been before the courts. With challenges from environmental, neighborhood and preservation groups ongoing in federal, state and administrative law courts, the debate over the city’s year-round cruise industry won’t be ending any time soon.

Opponents of the city’s expanded cruise industry say they are not opposed to cruises, but want stronger regulations governing the industry. They have challenged both state and federal permits to allow the Ports Authority to install new pilings beneath the warehouse to create the new terminal.

They have also gone to the state Supreme Court arguing that the cruises are a public nuisance causing noise, pollution and traffic congestion in the city’s Historic District.

Supporters say cruises will only be a niche market in Charleston — not the major industry witnessed in such places as Venice, Italy, and Key West, Fla. They say the industry is being appropriately handled.

The new year brings court activity on a couple of fronts.

On Jan. 7, a mediator for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond plans to meet with attorneys representing both sides in an appeal in the dispute over a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit for the pilings.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled in September that the Corps did not adequately review the project’s effects on the city’s historic district, telling attorneys for the Corps “You gave this permit a bum’s rush.”

The Ports Authority and Corps are appealing Gergel’s order.

Then on Jan. 27, Chief Administrative Law Judge Ralph K. Anderson III takes up the matter of a challenge to a state permit for those pilings.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control in Dec. 2012 approved the permit. Officials noted that the warehouse area has been an industrial and commercial area for centuries and putting in the five pilings for the terminal alone does not allow bigger ships or more ships.

The neighborhood, conservation and preservation groups appealed. And it will likely be many months until the issue is resolved because any decision by an administrative law judge can then be appealed to state circuit court.

There’s been no ruling on the third outstanding legal action – the case before the state Supreme Court that alleges the cruises are a public nuisance. The justices heard arguments in mid-November and have not yet handed down a decision.

Carnival Cruise Lines based its 2,056-passenger liner Fantasy in Charleston more than three years ago, giving the city a year-round industry. Before that, ships made port calls, but none were based in Charleston.

Charleston Cruises 2014

The Azamara Club Cruises passenger liner Quest makes a port call in Charleston, S.C., in this Dec. 10, 2013, photograph. It’s been almost four years since the South Carolina Ports Authority announced plans to build a new $35 million cruise terminal. But legal challenges from conservation, preservation and neighborhood groups have delayed the project. In January of 2014 attorneys in the case appear before both a mediator for the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and before a South Carolina administrative law judge.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/01/02/3014632/4-years-on-charleston-cruise-debate.html#storylink=cpy

Judge: Opponents have standing to challenge state permit for Charleston cruise terminal

Associated Press
Updated: December 03, 2013 – 3:16 pm

CHARLESTON, South Carolina — Charleston neighborhood, conservation and preservation groups may challenge a state permit for a $35 million South Carolina passenger cruise terminal, a state administrative law judge has ruled.

In a 16-page ruling on Monday, Chief Administrative Law Judge Ralph K. Anderson III rejected a South Carolina Ports Authority motion to dismiss a challenge to a state Department of Health and Environmental Control permit.

The DHEC permit certified that putting added pilings beneath an old riverfront warehouse so it can be renovated as a new terminal complies with state coastal regulations.

The permit challenge is one of three ongoing legal fights involving the city’s cruise industry.

The Ports Authority in July asked Anderson to dismiss the challenge to the state permit, saying the pilings have not yet been installed and so there has been no injury to the plaintiffs and they have no standing to appeal. Attorneys also argued the appeal should be dismissed because whether cruises operate out of Charleston is a political question, not one for the administrative law court.

Anderson noted the plaintiffs, who include six local groups, allege the permit will allow more cruise ships with the pollution, traffic and health impacts that accompany them.

“At this stage of the proceedings, the court finds that petitioners have sufficiently alleged that the organizations have standing,” he concluded, but added he would consider the larger issue of whether cruises should be allowed at all.

“The case before this court involves the discrete matter of whether the permit issued to the Ports Authority complies with state law,” he wrote.

A hearing is set for next month.

The question of whether the cruise industry is a public nuisance is now before the state Supreme Court. The justices heard arguments last month and have not indicated when they might rule.

The third legal challenge is to federal permit for the terminal pilings. A federal judge ruled in September that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not study the issue adequately and tossed out the permit. The Ports Authority and the Corps have appealed that decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia

Terminal opponents say they want limits on cruises so they don’t overwhelm the city. Supporters say the city will only be a niche cruise market and the industry is already being appropriately regulated.

(Story distributed by The Associated Press)

CHS | After losing its permit, the SPA will surely compromise. Ah, no.

CHS | After losing its permit, the SPA will surely compromise.  Ah, no.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Gergel ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to comply with the “formal assessment and consultative requirements” of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) before awarding the SC Ports Authority (SPA) a permit to transform “a previously permitted transit shed…into a modern state-of-the-art $35-million cruise ship passenger terminal” at Union Pier in Charleston.

The Army Corps, for unknown and probably unknowable reasons, had determined that complying with the NEPA and NHPA assessments was unnecessary because “the proposed activity will result in minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects.”  The project, the Corps said, would qualify as “maintenance,” and stated that the cruise terminal project had “no potential to cause effects on historic properties.”

Judge Gergel ruled otherwise. The Army Corps of Engineers, he said, ignored its responsibilities to do a proper assessment under the controlling NEPA and NHPA acts by saying that it was limiting its review to only five new pilings to support elevators and escalators that would come in contact with navigable waters.  That argument, the Court said, is “plainly inconsistent with the Army Corps’ own regulation…which provides for jurisdiction involving ‘any structure in or over any navigable water in the United States.'”   In his conclusion, the judge went farther, saying that rather than consider “all the activities in its jurisdiction under the Rivers and Harbors Act ‘in its scope of analysis,’ the Army Corps of Engineers, unreasonably and unlawfully, restricted its ‘scope of analysis’ to an insignificant fraction of the project that lay within the agency’s jurisdiction.”

“By omitting more than 99% of the project within its jurisdiction…  “The Court finds that the Army Corps’ limitation of the ‘scope of analysis’ to five concrete pile clusters was arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, and contrary to law.”

Almost equally disturbing were the SPA’s own statements and data that it presented to the Court.  Quoting from the ruling, “The Ports Authority has acknowledged that a cruise ship terminal can ‘present special challenges’ in ‘managing automobile and pedestrian traffic,’ ‘protecting the environment,’ ‘and preserving Charleston’s unique character’ and ‘there are still lingering questions about how well the cruise ship business will fit into the context of this diverse, world class city.'”  “Record evidence provided by the Ports Authority supports the [opponent’s] claim…that the number of cruise ships and passengers has increased in recent years, and the proposed new and larger passenger terminal would likely significantly increase the number and size of cruise ships visiting Charleston and the volume of cruise passengers in the historic Charleston waterfront.”  By 2012, the number of ships visiting Charleston had increased by 86% over “the 2005-2009 five-year average.”

And the SPA also gave us a glimpse into a far worse future.  With a new terminal, the 1990’s-era, 855’, 2,056-passenger Carnival “Fantasy” will be replaced with ships carrying 3,450 passengers.  And based on the SPA’s data, the Court concluded, “Even if the Ports Authority maintained its voluntary cap of 104 cruise ship visits a year(2), this would represent a 131% increase over the 2005-2009 five year average and a 24% increase from 2012.”   And to service such a volume of passengers, the Court noted, the SPA estimates that on an average embarkation and disembarkation day, “up to twenty tractor trailers, sixteen small trucks, thirty-two busses, ninety taxis, and 1600 passenger vehicles would need access to the very confined” terminal area that “lies immediately adjacent to the Charleston Historic District and the Ansonborough neighborhood.”

So how do you think the SPA reacted to the ruling?   Did it agree to comply, did it suggest a compromise, or did it offer to study another, less invasive location for a terminal?   No.  It appealed.  The appeal came in spite of the SPA’s own website that appears to invalidate any argument that their project could be considered “maintenance”:  “…Charleston is an ideal cruise port.  With an efficiently run operation and plans for a new state-of-the-art cruise terminal, our port is ready to welcome cruise operators and travelers alike.”(3)  Yes, and with the widening of the Panama Canal and a newly prosperous Chinese middle class, are we to believe that those ships of the future will carry only 3,450 travelers?

But if you’re looking for relief from Charleston’s mayor or its complacent, compliant City Council, forget it.  Mayor Joseph Riley recently reiterated his total lack of interest in regulating cruise ship tourism.(4)   So it’s up to the courts.

Oral arguments in another case will be presented this Tuesday, this one at the SC Supreme Court.(5)   Carnival Cruise Lines will argue to dismiss charges that it’s violating zoning ordinances, permitting requirements and creating a nuisance.(6)  True to form, both the SPA and the City of Charleston intervened in this case on behalf of…the defendant, not on behalf of the residents, organizations and associations trying to protect Charleston from the accelerating threat of unregulated cruise ship tourism.

Surely the SC Supreme Court read Judge Richard Gergel’s decision and recognizes the defendant’s fallacious assertion that their massive floating resorts can tie up at will, disgorge thousands of people simultaneously onto the world’s most cherished historic places, and then ignore every rule and regulation these historic places have developed to protect their history, culture and quality of life.  Or must degradation accompany this exploitation?

Jay, 15 Nov 13

1)   U.S. District of South Carolina, Charleston Division, Court Decision.  Preservation Society and Coastal Conservation League vs. US Army Corps of Engineers and SC Ports Authority
<Federal Cruise Permit SJ Order 9-18-13.pdf>

2)  The SPA has steadfastly refused to commit those “voluntary limits” in to legally binding limits.
“This Charleston Harbor Battle is over Cruise Ships” – NY Times

3)  South Carolina Ports website – Cruise Charleston page

4)  Reports of Mayor Joseph Riley’s comments at the membership meeting of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Assn., 29 Oct 13.

5)  South Carolina Supreme Court, Register of Cases for November, 2013.  Look for first case on 19 November.

6)  “Carnival Cruise Lines asks for Dismissal of Suit” – Post and Courier


Written by jwilliams
The Charleston Cruise Control Blog, written by Jay Williams, Jr., published periodically since May, 2011, consists of opinions and discussions about cruise ship tourism. Although Jay is involved with various local organizations, the opinions he expresses are solely his; they do not represent the views of any organization or other individual.  Mr. Williams is an independent blogger/writer. We present these blogs for C4 website visitors as an information source and as an additional way to chronologically follow the debates, commentaries and discussions about cruise tourism in Charleston.

Power Struggle: You Cruise, You Lose!

As taken from The Post and Courier, by Frank Wooten:

Shoreside power to the cruise ships!

That variation on “Power to the people!” won’t generate a rallying cry for Charlestonians demanding that cruise ships use shoreside power when docked here.

But that contentious issue is still sparking hard feelings.

As plugged-in colleague Bo Petersen reported on our front page Wednesday, getting electricity to a cruise ship that “switches off its engine in port to keep from burning polluting fuel” requires an “outlet that zings enough juice to light up several thousand homes.”

However, the venerable Carnival Fantasy, which home-ports at the State Ports Authority’s cruise terminal on the south end of Union Pier, isn’t equipped for shoreside power.

Our story also reported that what “started this whole mess and continues to drive it is toxic black exhaust from the cruise ship smokestacks at dock as the engines provide the ship’s electric power.”

And that powers much of the opposition to the proposed new $35 million SPA terminal at the north end of Union Pier.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley is on board with SPA President/CEO Jim Newsome for that plan, which includes an extensive — and expensive — waterfront redevelopment beyond the new terminal. Both men stress that you can’t have one (that grand redevelopment) without the other (that swell new terminal).

The Coastal Conservation League and Preservation Society of Charleston are among the groups challenging the terminal construction permit in court.

Some folks see the new terminal and its accompanying redevelopment as needed economic-engine boosters in what is, after all, our Port City.

Some folks question why the city gives cruise ships a virtually free regulatory ride — and why those massive motors should keep belching unhealthy emissions while those vessels are docked.

Some dignified downtown folks are aghast at the unseemly spectacle of cruise passengers clad in T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops roaming freely about our Holy City.

Hazardous voyages

Enough about that divisive power debate for now.

What powers cruisers our way in the first place?

From Carnival’s web site:

“Give in to the genteel feel of the old South on Carnival cruises from Charleston, South Carolina. This is a gracious city of antebellum homes and sprawling plantations, best appreciated from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage. The city’s unique Low country cuisine and dozens of delicious restaurants make it a southern foodie destination.”

Gee, and we genteel types lucky enough to live in these parts can do all of that without packing ourselves like sardines with strangers on a big boat (actually, a ship).

Most of us who live here even know that Lowcountry is one word.

Anyway, regardless of your present location or desired destination, why risk the ordeals endured by far too many cruisers?

Three months ago, Carnival figuratively threw co-founder Micky Arison overboard from his 35-year job as CEO.

From an Associated Press dispatch: “Arison came under fire during Carnival’s bad publicity earlier in the year when a string of its cruise ships suffered through mechanical problems and fires. The most dramatic of them was the Carnival Triumph where passengers were stranded at sea for five days as toilets backed up and air conditioners failed. There were media reports of raw sewage seeping through walls and carpets.”

We non-cruisers drew fresh validation from those gruesome plumbing details.

Fortunately, though, you can vicariously savor high-seas romance without smelling any broken-down cruise-ship stench.

Just watch vintage reruns of “The Love Boat” online.

Exciting and new

That 1977-87 ABC diversion features a future U.S. House member (Iowa Republican Fred Grandy as ship’s purser Burl “Gopher” Smith) and guest-star rosters of show-biz has-beens (including future California Republican House member Sonny Bono as a rock singer who falls in love with a deaf woman).

Despite a generally breezy tone, the series’ subtle subtexts frequently explore expanding social consciousness.

A DVD synopsis of my favorite episode, from 1978:

“A beauty contest on board ship divides a couple (Maureen McCormick, Bobby Sherman). A reporter (Vicki Lawrence) falls for a disgraced congressman (Dick Van Patten).”

They don’t make TV shows like that anymore.

But they do still make disgraced congressmen.

And they make cruise ships that can use shoreside power.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.


Jay’s Newest Post: Can a federal judge save Charleston from becoming Venice?

Can a federal judge save Charleston from becoming Venice?

In the nick of time, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel tossed the permit for the SPA’s (SC State Port’s Authority) planned $35 million cruise terminal in Charleston.  The judge ruled that the US Army Corps of Engineers did not adequately review the project’s impacts on the area, accused the Crops of “doing an end run,” and chastised the Corps’ attorneys: “You gave this permit the bum’s rush.”(1)

Noting the problems the large cruise terminal could create for the environment and the city’s historic district, among the several critical impacts that should have been carefully studied, but weren’t, Judge Gergel told the Corps’ attorneys, “You have an obligation to look at the entire project. You haven’t done what the law requires you to do by reducing a 108,000 square-foot project to 41-square feet of pilings. The process got distorted by limiting it to five piers.”

The judge noted that within the 1,200 pages of documents that there is evidence “that the terminal is being designed for larger ships than now call and could more than triple the number of cruise passengers visiting the city,” according to Bruce Smith’s Associated Press report.(2)  The judge said, “Somehow the Corps has reduced a major project to something that is less than 1 percent of the project.  I feel like I’m a nanny here trying to get you to do what Congress intends.”   The judge did not say, but we will, that the existing pier at Union Pier is 1800′, easily long enough to accommodate any of the largest ships afloat!

The SPA’s relentless “hurry up” rush to build a new cruise terminal at Union Pier near downtown was, temporarily, at least, placed “in irons” by the decision.  The judge’s formal ruling could come at any time and will likely be issued within the next 30 days.  And what happens next will likely depend on Judge Gergel’s written order.

Swimmers take venice

Swimmers take venice

(photo credit: Protesters leapt into Venice’s Giudecca Canal to block cruise ships inside the port last week  They and 1,000 supporters say that the cruise ships tower over the historic rooftops and drown the city in tourism. Photo: Getty Images (3))

We’re “not sure if that [order] will require SPA to ‘reapply’ but it will presumably require the Corps to reexamine SPA’s application by looking not just at the pilings needed for a new cruise terminal, but the cruise terminal itself,” Blan Holman, managing attorney of the Charleston office for the Southern Environmental Law Center informed this blog.  “That is, the Corps would need to consider the impacts of building a new cruise terminal, and, as well, options for reducing or avoiding those impacts.  Shore power, satellite parking, limits on ship size and number, alternative [terminal] locations — these come to mind,” adding, “And it’s possible that the Corps and the SPA will appeal that ruling…”   Holman noted that there are two other lawsuits pending, “One is a challenge to DHEC’s approvals for the terminal; that matter is currently pending before the SC Administrative Law Court (ALC).”  And “The third piece of litigation is the lawsuit filed by several neighborhood associations, the Preservation Society, and the Conservation League against Carnival for violating zoning ordinances, permitting requirements and creating a nuisance.”

The importance of the judge’s written order can’t be overstated.  The impacts of cruise tourism, as the severely damaged city of Venice has found out, are varied and immense.  Last Saturday, when this Venice picture was snapped, unusual circumstances had allowed 12 cruise ships to head past St. Mark’s Square in one day!  The main problem in Venice, as a speaker informed the Preservation Society’s cruise conference last year, is that ships are permitted to dock adjacent to the historic city, are creating incredible, irreversible impacts to the city’s historic foundations, culture, civil structure, and local populace–over half of whom have left the city in the past three decades.  The only solution now, said the expert, is to move the port across to the mainland, away from the city; that would dramatically reduce the impacts.  That could be a solution in Charleston, too, as the Corps was required to study alternate locations for the terminal–and never did.

Judge Gergel’s decision is good news for Charleston.  “We welcome this ruling because it clarifies the obligation the SPA has to protect the environment and the historic character of the city.  We hope this will open the door for more productive discussions about how to best deal with cruise traffic in Charleston,” Dana Beach, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League, told this blog.

We welcome it, too.  And we hope it forces the SPA and the city to look beyond their immediate interests and agendas and into the future.  Because that future will be crammed with ever-growing numbers of ever-larger cruise ships carrying millions more passengers every single year.(4)   Once upon a time, cruise ships weren’t a problem in Venice.  Now they are, and any solution will cost hundreds of billions–and come too late to save Venice.

–Jay, 24 Sept 13

#   #    #

1)  Judge docks Charleston Cruise Terminal Study – Post and Courier

2)  Judge tosses federal permit for SC cruise terminal – Bruce Smith/AP

3)  Protesters dive into Venice canal to protest cruise ships – The Telegraph (UK)

4)  Growth of the Cruise line industry – Cruise Market Watch


Written by jwilliams
The Charleston Cruise Control Blog, written by Jay Williams, Jr. and published periodically since May, 2011, consists of opinions and commentary about cruise ship tourism. Although Jay is a C4 Advisory Board member and a board member of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Assn., the opinions he expresses are his alone; they are not intended to represent C4 or any other organization or any member of any organization. Mr. Williams is an independent blogger/writer. These blogs provide C4 website visitors an additional information source regarding the cruise terminal debates and discussions in Charleston.


Jay’s Latest Blog


Federal U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel tossed out the federal permit that was required to build the SPA’s (SC State Ports Authority) proposed new cruise terminal at Union Pier near downtown Charleston.(1)

After reviewing hundreds of pages of briefs and documents and hearing two hours of oral testimony, the judge ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not adequately review all the necessary criteria before issuing the permit and that its analysis was flawed by limiting it to installing the pilings. This marks a huge victory for conservationists and preservationists who had argued that the Corps did not take into consideration any of the impacts that a new terminal would have on the environment, the city or the historic districts before issuing its now jettisoned permit. The Corps and the SPA had argued that the installation of five new clusters of pilings underneath a building that was already used for maritime purposes would have little impact, but neighborhood, civic, and preservations groups, media outlets and this blog successfully argued that the permitting process itself had mandated a wider review.

“The scope of the analysis was done wrong,” Judge Gergel said in court today. This is one of three lawsuits filed against the cruise terminal that many opponents have charged will bring more unregulated tourists, traffic, congestion, noise and pollution into an area that could be permanently damaged as a result.(2) The SPA, the state legislature, and the city have all refused to put any restrictions on the rapidly growing cruise industry or its operations in Charleston.

–Jay, 12 Sept 13

1) Judge tosses federal permit for $35 million cruise terminal – Associated Press

2) Back to drawing board for Army Corps… – Post and Courier


Written by jwilliams
The Charleston Cruise Control Blog, written by Jay Williams, Jr. and published periodically since May, 2011, consists of opinions and commentary about cruise ship tourism. Although Jay is a C4 Advisory Board member and a board member of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Assn., the opinions he expresses are his alone; they are not intended to represent C4 or any other organization or any member of any organization. Mr. Williams is an independent blogger/writer. These blogs provide C4 website visitors an additional information source regarding the cruise terminal debates and discussions in Charleston.

New chance to reduce cruise impacts

The Carnival ship Fantasy, when it is here in its home port, doesn’t just pick up and drop off passengers. It has a significant impact on the environment and the congestion on peninsula Charleston’s streets and sidewalks. It makes noise and looms larger than anything else in Charleston’s historic area.

A ruling by federal Judge Richard Gergel acknowledges that those consequences must be addressed before a new $35 million cruise terminal is permitted.

That means a delay for the State Ports Authority, which wants to convert an old shed into a large modern cruise terminal at Union Pier. We hope it also means that decisions will be made with more sensitivity to the city and its people.

The Coastal Conservation League and the Preservation Society of Charleston sued the Army Corps of Engineers over a permit it issued allowing five pilings to be driven on the waterfront for the proposed terminal. The pilings would be necessary to bear the weight of escalators and elevators.

The lawsuit has been viewed by some as baseless, misdirected obstructionism.

But Judge Gergel concluded otherwise — and strongly. On Thursday he said the Corps was dismissive of its duties to evaluate the project in its entirety, possibly “because they’re scared of what the answer is.”

He also noted what cruise industry enthusiasts have played down: The terminal is being designed for vessels even larger than the Fantasy. A ship accommodating 3,500 passengers instead of 2,000 would make a much bigger impact.

Neighborhood associations, preservationists and environmentalists have expressed concern that, unchecked by regulations, the industry will grow too large for this small area and will bring big problems that other historic ports like Venice are experiencing.

S.C. State Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome has pledged to Charleston Mayor Joe Riley that the SPA will allow no more than 104 cruises a year without holding public hearings. The mayor has said he is satisfied with that.

His stance is surprising, given the broad regulations that otherwise govern historic Charleston: the color people can paint their homes, the number of pedicabs that can operate, tour boat operations, the scholarship of tour directors, and the number and location of hotel rooms.

The city has been asked to put regulations in place to control the cruise industry, not to eliminate it, but to limit inappropriate growth.

Carnival and the port have been challenged to commit to such limits, and to install and use plug-in power for cruise ships idling at the dock and producing the kind of emissions that have been associated with lung disease and cancer.

They have refused.

A new study commissioned by the Southern Environmental Law Center makes a strong case for shoreside power. Energy and Environmental Research Associates in Pittsford, N.Y., concludes that cruise ships in Charleston could dramatically reduce pollution by plugging into the electrical grid — even after regulations requiring ships to burn cleaner fuel are implemented.

The 2,000-passenger Fantasy, plugging in at dock, could reduce carbon monoxide emissions by 92 percent, ozone-causing nitrogen oxides by 98 percent, small particulate soot by 34 percent and carbon dioxide by 26 percent.

Incorporating shoreside power into any plans for a new terminal is only logical.

Historic Charleston, widely and deservedly praised for its preservation efforts, remains on the watch list of the National Trust for Historic Preservation as being at risk because of the impact of cruise ships.

The court-ordered review of the Ports Authority’s terminal project offers another chance to do the cruise business in Charleston the right way.

As taken from Charleston’s Post and Courier

Judge tosses federal permit for $35 million cruise terminal

Judge tosses federal permit for $35 million cruise terminal

Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) – A judge has tossed out a federal permit for a proposed $35 million cruise terminal in Charleston, saying the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not adequately review the project impacts.

The decision Thursday by U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel is a victory for neighborhood and preservation groups opposed to Charleston’s expanded cruise industry.

Those groups sued saying the Corps needed to do a more extensive review of impacts on the environment and the city’s historic district. The Corps said that installing five clusters of pilings beneath a building already used for maritime purposes would have little impact.

But Gergel says the analysis was flawed by limiting it to installing piers. He says he’s issuing an order sending the permit back to the Corps for a wider review.

Back to drawing board for Army Corps after federal judge orders more review in cruise terminal permit

A federal judge has ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to redo its study that approved a permit for a new cruise terminal in downtown Charleston.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel said the federal agency did not study all aspects when it awarded a permit last year for five pilings to construct the $35 million terminal at Union Pier.

“The scope of the analysis was done wrong,” Gergel said in court on Thursday. The S.C. State Ports Authority wants to build a new cruise terminal to replace an aging one already at Union Pier. The pilings are needed to convert a former warehouse into the new terminal.

Gergel made the decision after hearing nearly two hours of oral arguments between lawyers in downtown Charleston.

The Coastal Conservation League and the Preservation Society of Charleston are suing the Army Corps over the federal permit, saying partly that the Army Corps didn’t take into account the effect on historical properties.

Gergel sided with the groups on Thursday, saying the Army Corps should have looked at the historical and environmental concerns when it approved the project.

This marks one of three lawsuits opposing expanded cruises in downtown Charleston.

Anyone Know Where I Can Plug in My Cruise Ship?

Study: On-shore power would dramatically reduce cruise ship emissions

‘Waiter, there’s small particulate soot in my soup’

Posted by Paul Bowers on Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 4:00 AM


  • Mike Ledford file photo

A new study shows that cruise ships docked in Charleston could reduce their carbon monoxide emissions by as much as 97 percent by plugging into the onshore power grid instead of idling their engines.

The report is fodder for an ongoing debate about the future of the Holy City cruise ship industry, sparked by the S.C. State Ports Authority’s plan to build a new $35 million cruise terminal in the historic district and by city leaders’ refusal to enforce caps on cruise ship traffic. Environmental and community groups have filed lawsuits in the matter and pushed SPA to consider incorporating power grid plug-ins in the new terminal design, as has been done at seven other U.S. ports including one in Brooklyn, N.Y., but SPA has refused to make the change. As a result, cruise ships will continue to run their engines at the Charleston port to power lights, air conditioners, refrigerators, and other equipment. In the new study, which was published Monday, these onshore electrical needs are referred to as the “hotelling load factor.”

The study, published Monday, was commissioned by the Charleston-based Southern Environmental Law Center and prepared by the Pittsford, N.Y.-based Energy and Environmental Research Associates, LLC. In estimating emissions, it used methodologies similar to ones used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board.

Under current conditions, according to the report, a switch to onshore power would reduce emissions of carbon monoxide by 92 percent, nitrogen oxide by 98 percent, small particulate soot by 34 percent, and carbon dioxide by 26 percent. The study found that a 2,000-passenger Carnival ship emits 68.3 metric tons of nitrogen oxide per year in the time it idles at the Charleston terminal, whereas the same ship using shore-based power would emit only 0.8 metric tons in Charleston.

The study also looks forward to the year 2019, when Carnival will be operating larger 3,500-passenger ships that are expected to emit more pollutants. By then, the South Carolina utility SCE&G is also expected to have shifted toward natural gas and nuclear power generation, leading to lower emissions from the currently coal-based onshore power source. As a result, the study finds that the emissions cuts from switching to on-shore power would be even more dramatic in 2019: Carbon monoxide emissions would be reduced by 97 percent, nitrogen oxide by 99 percent, small particulate soot by 71 percent, and carbon dioxide by 36 percent.

SPA representative Allison Skipper says she has not seen the report yet, but that her organization “believes Carnival to be operating legally in Charleston” under federal MARPOL (Maritime Pollution) Annex VI emissions standards. Those standards, which went into effect in 2005, placed limits on ships’ emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide.

The Coastal Conservation League, a vocal proponent of onshore power for Charleston cruise ships, is touting the report as support for their side in the debate. “People in Charleston are not anti-cruise,” says Katie Zimmerman, a program manager at CCL. “They just want a fair look at options used in other ports to manage cruise impacts and protect human health, and shore power is one of them.”